Test of self-directed learning strategies

In rapid-cycle experiments, STEM course instructors from our institutional partners participate in tests of specific, technology-enable strategies to support students’ development of self-directed learning skills and mindsets. Collaborative researchers identified a series of evidence-based strategies, and now they partner with the STEM instructors to further refine and test the strategies in a multi-semester, iterative process. The instructors then integrate the strategies into their online or hybrid foundational STEM courses such as biology, psychology, and mathematics.

Researchers and instructors started to test these strategies as of fall 2024:

  1. Three-part video series: Instructors embed short videos related to sense of belonging, time management, and growth mindset in the learning management system for students to watch and reflect on their own practices and mindsets. Instructors can pace the videos as they see fit throughout the semester or term.
  2. Prompts: Instructors embed prompts for students to manage their learning throughout the course. These prompts are typically assigned as short-answer questions related to planning for the upcoming week, monitoring one’s progress, and reflecting on one’s own understanding of course concepts.
  3. Student-Peer Interaction & Networking (SPIN): Instructors integrate three ways for online students to support each other, introductory questionnaires, group assignments or online work sessions, and an online forum where students can ask each other academic questions or share favorite study resources.

To explore the impacts of these strategies, researchers use student pre and post surveys and learning management system data. They will check for improved self-directed learning (SDL) skills, including motivational, metacognitive, and applied learning processes. Researchers supplement these data with findings from student and instructor interviews for more insight into the implementation and perceived impact of the SDL-related strategies.

These experiments will help Collaborative researchers and partners understand which technology-enabled instructional strategies help strengthen students’ SDL skills and improve academic outcomes, and how the effects vary based on instructor and student characteristics as well as course context. The findings will inform the development of an integrated course instructional model and related guidance for SDL skills and mindsets across our framework.